The Mocking Birds’ recent presentation Ek Rumaal, Ek Anguthi, Ek Chalni staged at the Indianostrum Theatre in Puducherry depicted a woman’s life through an emotional spectrum. It spoke of love, longing, loss and more. Directed by Shubham Tiwari, the solo play featured Gunjan Jain. Ek Rumaal, Ek Anguthi, Ek Chalni is based on a story written in a letter format by eminent writer Amrita Pritam.
The narrator in the play is the author herself, who reads excerpts from the many letters sent by her childhood friend Banti after her marriage. But these are not mere letters, they describe what a woman goes through in love and marriage, and the sacrifices she makes to keep the family together.
The play revolves around Amrita’s friend Banti and her own unhappy married life, It also talks about the emotional vacuum in Amrita’s mother-in-law Rupo’s life after her separation from her lover, Moti. Rupo sarcastically called herself a ‘bhatiyarin’ — a wandering woman, whose life was all about roasting gram, rice, peas, and corn in the ever-burning anguthi (oven) and then sieving them with a chalni.
One of the most prolific and powerful Punjabi writers, Amrita Pritam’s portrayal of women is unique in the realm of modern Indian writing. Her women are always restless and in search for their identities. They are victims of bloody wars, Partition and patriarchy, yet are never submissive.
From Puro of Pinjar and Angoorie of Jangli Booti to Guleri of Bu to Rupo of Ek Rumaal, Ek Anguthi, Ek Chalni, each one makes a strong impact on the readers. “When I saw the atrocities committed during Partition, I felt as if the collective anguish of womankind moulded my soul,” writes Amrita in Kaala Gulaab.
Migrating from Lahore to India and penning the pain of Partition in her stories, novels and poems, Amrita spoke of the turbulent times. Her women are chroniclers devastating human calamities. Always restless and striving for change, she truly created invincible women in her literary works.
Staged on the occasion of Hindi Divas in Puducherry, Ek Rumaal, Ek Anguthi, Ek Chalni had a minimalist set — a book rack, table, chair, an angithi, and two stools. There was also the iconic ‘Three Girls’ painting by avant-garde artist, Amrita Sher-Gill.
The play began with the melancholic Punjabi folk song ‘Ekk kudi jidaan naam mohabbat, gum hai, gum hai…’ penned by the veteran Shiv Kumar Batalvi, a contemporary of Amrita Pritam. In order to balance the serious tone of the play, the director had beautifully strung together soothing songs and music. Gunjan Jain enacted the various characters with aplomb. Her perfect expressions and dialogue delivery adding to the play’s impact. Her perfect expressions and voice modulation lend an edge to the performance.
The play ended on a dramatic note — with Amrita Pritam’s timeless poetry ‘Main tainu phir milangi’ (I will meet you again).